Highland Park board, teachers at loggerheads
Students get off a school bus while arriving for school at Sherwood Elementary School on Tuesday. District 112 teachers have declared a contract negotiation impasse, setting the stage for a possible mid-October strike. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: May 16, 2013 4:48PM
HIGHLAND PARK — The North Shore District 112 Board of Education is among the Chicago-area school boards challenging a long-entrenched teacher pay system that awards teachers who’ve not reached the top of the pay scale with two, if not three, sources of pay increases each year.
And teachers in the district are pushing back.
The North Shore Education Association Friday declared an impasse in its contract talks with the School Board, setting into motion a series of deadlines that potentially could result in a teacher’s strike as early as Oct. 12. The union would need to provide the School Board 10 days advance notice of its intent to strike before any work stoppage.
A union spokesman said the School Board is proposing to freeze teachers’ pay for two years and link a third year raise to the Consumer Price Index. Other outstanding issues include the pay raises teachers receive for completing coursework and retirement incentives.
“The board’s current proposal will result in District 112 being one of the worst school districts on the North Shore in terms of teachers’ benefits,” said Pamela Kramer, president of the North Shore Education Association, which represents about 400 district teachers.
“That will cause teachers to use their time in District 112 as a stepping stone to other higher-paying districts where teachers are respected and receive better benefits. We do not want District 112 to become a revolving door,” Kramer said.
School Board members have disputed the union’s portrayal of their offer, but declined to release the specifics before Friday, Sept. 21.
Board President Bruce Hyman said in a statement, “The board is committed to remaining at the bargaining table to negotiate an equitable settlement that insures the district will have the necessary resources to provide current and future students with an outstanding education.”
He said the board believes the compensation package should be fair to teachers while also ensuring that expenses don’t exceed revenues and result in a reduction in resources for future students.
The three-raise system used in Highland Park and many districts often has resulted in annual pay increases that outpace tax-capped revenue and what many in the private sector have been receiving, particularly during the economic downturn.
Teachers typically receive a base increase to keep up with inflation and a step increase for an additional year of experience. Some also receive a third increase for additional coursework. In District 112, teachers move a lane for completing nine hours of coursework until well past a master’s degree, when raises are accelerated.
Under the last three-year contract that expired in August, teachers received small base increases ranging from 1.25 percent to 1.55 percent. But when annual “step” increases for an additional year of experience were factored in, many district teachers received pay increases of about 14 percent over the three-year period of the contract, according to an analysis of salary schedules.
Teachers who announce plans to retire in advance can receive 6 percent raises for up to four years, as well as a $15,000 lump sum payment after retirement.
The union said the board’s offer “includes stripping teachers of most retirement benefits, leaving them with benefits that would be among the worst in the state.”
Average teacher pay in the district was reported at $70,566 on the 2011 School Report Cards, based on an average experience level of 11.5 years.
The North Shore Education Association notified the School Board Sept. 14 that it was declaring an impasse in negotiations and filing the motion with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. The union and School Board have seven days, or until Friday, Sept. 21, to submit their most recent proposals with a cost-impact analysis to the labor board. The District 112 School Board has said it will post its most recent offer on the district’s website — www.nssd112.org — the same day.